By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – This is the third week of social distancing, a state of emergency and no school.
There is now a stay-at-home order, non-essential businesses told to close and various other actions geared to lower the curve and reduce the number of people with COVID-19.
In these three weeks, we have learned how to spend less and less time in public, particularly grocery stores. The stores are quieter at certain times of the day — when depends where you live — but the shelves are often empty at mid-afternoon.
Stores open early for at-risk seniors and people with immune system deficiencies, but social distancing is impossible with the crowds.
Some at-risk folks are too scared of catching COVID-19 to shop for essentials. Instead they depend on someone else to do their shopping or go without.
Rubber gloves are a necessity for pumping gasoline and picking over products in stores.
Eating out is a distant memory but the occasional take-out meal from the local restaurant is a good thing to keep the business alive, if it is not too crowded at the cash register for proper social distancing.
Families are eating together at home after home schooling ends for the day and watch movies and television shows together. Highways are less crowded and few people have been on an airplane in the last month.
Movie theaters, concert halls and clubs are closed as are most bars and eating establishments.
Libraries and town and city offices are closed as are colleges and universities, and the State House complex is closed to lawmakers and the public.
Hospitals postponed elective surgery and closed their doors to visitors. Many medical issues will have to wait, including COVID-19 testing unless you work in the medical field, as a first responder, are very ill or in the extremely high-risk category.
Tens of thousands Granite Staters are without work, but eligible for unemployment benefits under the recent more permissive guidelines. The federal stimulus package adds up to $600 a week to the benefits.
The virus spread last week to all 10 counties, with the state’s two largest counties, Rockingham and Hillsborough, bearing the brunt of the onslaught, with other hotspots like the Upper Valley.
The forced isolation is difficult for most people, but for the infected, and their families and friends, and for those who died and their loved ones, it is far, far worse.
The “new normal” is not an experience most people want to continue for any length of time, but it may be before a vaccine is developed to halt the virus’s spread.
Stay At Home
Gov. Chris Sununu’s a stay-at-home order has been in place for more than a week. While most people are complying with the spirit of the order, some are not which makes controlling the spread more difficult and the isolation last longer.
The first weekend under the order, the state’s ocean beaches and hiking trails were overcrowded, many of whom came from other state’s with stay-at-home orders they ignored, with a healthy dose of Granite Staters ignoring the order as well.
The crowds prompted the governor to close the state’s ocean beaches, urge residents to find hiking trails near their home and tell out-of-states who come to the state for an extended period of time to voluntarily quarantine themselves for two weeks.
Privileged out-of-staters are flocking here to their second homes to avoid the virus’s rampant spread in the New York City area, and Boston and its suburbs.
Sununu said last week most have been voluntarily adhering to the two-week quarantine, but anecdotal evidence suggest they do not.
Other states have mandatory quarantines like Rhode Island which sent law enforcement door to door to enforce it, and that may be what New Hampshire has to consider. But Sununu appears reluctant to clamp down in, as he says, “the live-free-or-die state.”
The in-migration of the those privileged to afford a second home or condo or suite could impact the state’s medical system as infections explode and deaths and hospitalizations increase.
The system’s capacity is based on the number of state residents, not the high number of people that populate the Granite State in the summer.
If the folks from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania become sick with COVID-19, they may fill an intensive care unit bed someone who lives here year-round needs.
Sununu notes he cannot close the state’s borders, and he cannot, but people coming here need to be mindful of this state’s stay-at-home order and the voluntary quarantine they should be following.
The list of essential services released by the state is long and sometimes head scratching: bicycle repair shops, steel and gun manufacturing, retail stores with curbside pickup and dry cleaners.
Landscapers, painters and other construction workers are also considered essential along with real estate agents.
What are not essential are gyms, YMCAs and other exercise or recreational businesses, including golf courses. They all draw a crowd bigger than the state’s 10-person limit for gatherings including church services.
Lots of people use recreational facilities, but now have to use exercise equipment at home or run or walk.
Last week a petition was submitted to Sununu’s office signed by more than 8,000 golf enthusiasts urging he open golf courses.
Golf course maintenance workers are considered essential even if the courses are not as owners want to keep their facilities up to snuff.
My father was an avid golfer and many of my friends also fall into that category, but I never succumbed to its siren song.
A friend once told me I should take up golf because it is a great opportunity for free advice, especially from lawyers.
I didn’t need any legal advice at the time, so the argument did not sway me.
Sununu was asked last week whether he would open golf courses and said it would not work if only New Hampshire opened its courses. They would be overrun with golfers from surrounding states where they are closed, he reasoned. The states also have their own stay-at-home orders.
Playing golf cannot be that important when people are dying and others lie in hospital beds struggling to breathe.
Playing golf is not a necessity, although my late father would disagree.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.
InDepthNH.org is New Hampshire’s only nonprofit, online news outlet dedicated to reporting ethical, unbiased news and diverse opinions and columns.